International Duty Free: 60 years young

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.
Martin Moodie

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I have an unashamed soft spot for independent companies, knowing exactly how hard it is to start one up, keep it going, and then sustain it in the long term.

So as The Moodie Davitt Report celebrates turning 16, I doff my cap to International Duty Free in Belgium, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this month.

International Duty Free operates around 30 boutiques at Brussels and Brussels South Charleroi airports, a diverse network of anchor and specialist stores, all top-class, all featuring great local and international brands.

But it wasn’t always like that. In 1958, Aldo Vastapane created the first duty free shop (pictured above) at Brussels Airport Company; a humble incarnation of a retail concept that at the time only existed at Shannon Airport in Ireland. What a beautiful image, so evocative of an age gone by.

Today, 60 years later, IDF is a major player in the travel retail industry. To celebrate that remarkable landmark, the retailer is hosting six weeks of celebration across all its stores, from 10 September through to the end of October.

The diamond anniversary celebrations will include a giant cake displayed with different tiers, displaying best-selling products from down the years. Each decade will be represented with matching products for one week in the Terminal A and B walk-through stores.

If customers spend the highly symbolic amount of €60 or more on these items, they will receive a Neuhaus Gift Box free. IDF is also offering free entertainment with in-store performances from local artist Bob van der Leij; and special postcards in the shops, featuring pictures from IDF’s rich history.

Shoppers will also be eligible to win 60 shopping vouchers worth €60 by entering a dedicated Anniversary Competition, in which they have to answer ten questions about the airport, the retailer, and some of the brands sold there.

Sounds easy? Let’s test you out.

July 1958
– 14 February 1960
– 21 July 1962
Ok then, that’s the easy one. How about these?

Which famous icon can you see in the connector hall at Brussels Airport?

– Manneke Pis
– Tintin’s rocket
– Papa Smurf

Still going strong? Ok, let’s make it a little harder.

In which year was the new logo of ‘International Duty Free’ (below) introduced?

  • 2009
  • 2012
  • 2015

And…The Atomium in Brussels is celebrating his 60th anniversary this year. What was the original plan for the Atomium after Expo 58?

– To be moved to Paris
– To be removed
– To be moved to Tokyo

If you want to try your luck on the full set of questions, click here. I’m prepared to wager that few outside Belgium will get all ten.

Even if you don’t, I suggest you take a look at IDF’s website. It’s a nice, nostalgic experience, a reminder both of the spirit of entrepreneurialism that has made travel retail what it is today, and of how very far we have come in those years.

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